REUTERS NEWS AGENCY
Congress probably will be able to stop the Obama administration from bringing Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detainees to U.S. soil, the Republican leader of the House said Thursday.
Rep. John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said that at least two pieces of legislation would have to go through Congress before the government can move any of the detainees to an Illinois prison - and he doubted either bill would pass.
“I wouldn’t want to bet on when those two pieces of legislation will pass, if ever,” Mr. Boehner told reporters.
The Democrats have a majority in both houses of Congress, but lawmakers in both parties are nervous about President Obama’s pledge to close the prison camp at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, that houses foreign terrorism suspects.
This week, the administration said it planned to buy an Illinois prison and move some Guantanamo detainees there.
U.S. law bars Guantanamo detainees from being brought onto U.S. soil unless they are going to be prosecuted. Mr. Boehner suggested that provision would need to be changed.
The minority leader said the administration would also need to get congressional approval to fund the prison project.
Mr. Boehner warned the White House not to try to force Congress to approve Guantanamo transfers by attaching them to legislation supplying funding for the war in Afghanistan.
If that happened, he wouldn’t vote for the war funding, something he said he would otherwise support.
“I am not going to support a bill that facilitates bringing Gitmo prisoners to the United States,” said Mr. Boehner, adding that he thought his caucus was united on the issue.
With serious unrest among Mr. Obama’s Democrats over the war, the president likely needs the votes of Mr. Boehner and other Republicans to approve additional funding for his recent decision to send 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan.
The next round of war funding legislation is not likely to be considered before the spring.
The Guantanamo facility was opened in 2002, and the United States still holds 210 prisoners there.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said on Wednesday that the purchase of the Thomson Correctional Center in Illinois would help close the facility in Cuba, perhaps by summer.